Paul Newman founded the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp for children stricken with cancer, AIDS, and blood diseases. One afternoon, he and his wife, Joanne Woodward, stopped by to have lunch with the kids.
A counselor at a nearby table, suspecting the young patients wouldn’t know Newman was a famous movie star, explained, “That’s the man who made this camp possible. Maybe you’ve seen his picture on his salad dressing bottle?”
Nothing but blank stares.
“Well, you’ve probably seen his face on his lemonade carton.”
An eight-year-old girl perked up. “How long was he missing?”
I had to smile when I read this story and I can only imagine how much Paul Newman and his wife were laughing about it.
I remember the missing children’s faces on the milk cartons and always thought it was a marvelous idea. Then the faces on the pizza boxes and milk cartons disappeared and I was always wondering why.
Two years ago I was on my way to my workroom. I had some cookies in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, when the TV got my attention and what I heard made my neck hair stand up. I didn’t walk any further. I turned the TV up and sat down in our living room and listen to the news in absolute disbelieve. Maybe because we live in Ohio, maybe that’s why it hit home so much and knocked me off my feet.
I listened to the news reporter as he explained how the 3 missing girls had been found, in a house in Cleveland. The house was not somewhere in the bunnies, far away from any population, no, it was a in normal street, with normal houses in a working class neighborhood.
I heard the names of the young women, names that I will never forget. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina deJesus. It wasn’t just me, the whole nation was shocked and the news was shared all around the world.
I followed the story for quite some time and I realized for the first time, that I didn’t know a single name of a missing person. I didn’t know a name or a picture and I felt terrible about it.
I heard the story about the waitress, who recognized a missing child and could call the police during her shift and the kid was freed. It made me shiver inside, because I realized I wouldn’t recall a name or a face, because I don’t see them anymore.
That night they changed the regular TV program and an missing persons special was broadcasted instead. I watched it; I watched the whole program until the very end.
Something about the young women in Cleveland had struck a core in me and it didn’t leave me alone. I made up my mind that I would buy the book, if they would write one. I would buy the book, even though I would be hard to read, because I thought their story had to be told, they deserved to be heard. I also made up my mind that I had to look at missing persons pictures on a regular base.
That was then. Now its two years later and I just finished Michelle’s Knight’s book “Finding me”. In the middle of the book I realized that once again, I didn’t know a name or a face of a missing child or a missing adult. I felt ashamed, only two years later there was nothing left of my good intentions. The TV shows have stopped and only a few places show posters and pictures of missing persons these days.
The faces on milk cartons and pizza boxes are long gone. I wanted to know why and started to research it a little bit.
In the 1970s, many police departments were hesitant to intervene when noncustodial parents took off with their children. They viewed the incidents as domestic disagreements rather than as true kidnappings. Frustrated custodial parents launched a movement to combat the problem, giving the crime a name: child snatching. Advocacy groups distributed pamphlets containing pictures of snatched children to principals and schoolteachers, because the noncustodial parent often enrolled the child in a new school under a different name.
Advocates broadened their campaign in the early 1980s to include all missing children. A handful of high-profile kidnappings had terrified the public: Etan Patz went missing in 1979, and Adam Walsh—the child of now-famous crime fighter John Walsh—was abducted and murdered in 1981. By including runaways in their estimates, advocates were able to claim that hundreds of thousands of children went missing every year.
A few dairies began to place pictures of missing children on milk cartons in 1984. Missing children appeared on pizza boxes, grocery bags, and junk mail envelopes alongside the question, “Have you seen me?” The milk carton campaign was probably the most visible aspect of the movement—by 1985, 700 of the nation’s 1,800 independent dairies had adopted the practice. Though a few informants told police they recognized a child from a gallon of milk, there is no data on how many children were saved by the milk cartons.
Sadly in the late 80’s pediatricians worried that children would be frightened by the pictures and that was the end of it.
I don’t want to sound cruel, but I think it’s not a bad thing if a child gets frightened by the picture of a missing child it’s own age. This world is not a safe place and children need to know. Many children are abducted by people they know and candy, puppies and stuffed animals are used as bait.
The pictures on the milk cartons brought awareness to the missing children. These days, almost everything is done online and there are many websites with pictures of missing children and missing adults.
I wish there would be more awareness. I believe visualization like the faces on the milk cartons is missing these days. But maybe that’s just me and my thinking~!
This time I will keep the promise I made myself. I will look at missing person’s pictures, especially the ones of children, on a regular base.
I think we all should~!